April 20, 2013
A Sober(ing) Review: two & a half stars
Here's hoping I don't incur too much wrath here, but I have to respectfully disagree with all that's been said about this show, (“deadheaddave”'s below review notwithstanding). Indeed, it is '73 Dead (and even some of the worst played shows of '73 can still hold a robust candle to several top-shelf shows played from other years (even ’72 & ’77) in the Dead's stupendous catalog. Still, one has to give credit where credit is due… and offer constructive criticism when due.
To start, the first set of this show in Cleveland offers a standard menu of ditties that are played with an underwhelming level of gusto and inspiration, all things being equal. Allow me to cherry-pick a few numbers from the first set to illustrate my point. Not unlike many folks, I love the TLEO’s of '73, but this one feels sluggish and phoned-in, and is far inferior to others played this year (look to 2/15, 3/22, 9/7, 11/9, 11/30 for examples). Bobby Ace's seemingly strained vocals on GSET are not his best offering, and the ending segment of the song never quite broaches the jamming apex of other versions of the year (2/26 & 11/9 come to mind). The CHINA->RIDER paring to close the first set is executed pleasantly enough, but can one name one in '73 that isn’t? (And there are far superior versions offered from the year: 3/22, 3/16, 11/11, 11/14 come directly to mind....)
The second set (not surprisingly) offers more ear glitter than the first, but still ultimately leaves something to be desired—based on all the hype it gets. In order to avoid filibustering the obvious point of discussion for this set, I'll be curt and address the elephant in the room: DARK STAR! Clocking in at nearly 44 minutes, this version on the surface should be every Head's wet dream, and then some. Well… perhaps. Although this particular DS far & away exceeds its quota in terms of length, that doesn't necessary mean it does so in terms of performance. I’m of the persuasion that the long-winded duration and over-hyped chitter-chatter have blindsided some listener’s objective judgment. Get the cotton of yer ears folks! Yes, it’s a very long DS from the greatest band to have graced this earth, but there are many versions that should—and do—rank above this one. It should go without saying, but nevertheless I’ll divulge: 2/27/69, 2/13/70, 9/19/70, 2/18/71, 4/8/72, 5/11/72, 8/27/72, 9/21/72… to name a few). But I digress. Anyway, for this DS on this particular night, a little more focus, and a little less aimless meandering would have made this one a much stronger candidate for the best of 1973. At one point around a 1/4 of the way through this DS, Mr. Lesh tries to inject some adrenaline into this otherwise lifeless beast by plucking Phil bombs in the hopes of making something happen. It seems as if the boys begin to follow his lead, but it is only fleeting, and the half-baked jam wanders off again into a sedated directionless fixture of sound. In truth, this version never hits the peaks and valleys of other versions from this year (2/15 & 11/11 are the obvious ones, while10/19 & 12/18 deserve an honorable mention). The EYES that follows the DS, while good (even the worst Eyes of '73 is still stellar!) is nowhere near the best of the year. (Look to 2/15, 2/22, 5/26, 9/7, 10/19, 10/29, 11/11 for prime candidates).
Again, not to pee on everyone's parade here, but in a year like 1973, we all need to be ever mindful about being very objective about every show played in this incredible year. Of course, I’ll concede that this is a decent show (It's 1973, by jove!), but compared to some of its brothers & sisters of the same year, it pails IMHO.
I urge everyone to please listen objectively and perhaps you'll see my point...which is that this show seems to get inordinately praise precisely because of its extraordinarily long DARK STAR, and, in-turn, has garnered much hype, be it warranted or not.
I have a suspicion some curious listeners unfamiliar with certain shows or year(s) might stumble upon a show like this one, partly because it has so many reviews and it has attracted so much discussion that a snowball effect began to take shape. If I were less familiar was an era and was looking for a ’73 show, I might listen to this one first without having the benefit of hearing others, and be blown away by this night bar-none! After all, it’s a Grateful Dead show played in ’73, which, all told, is high caliber music. But if I had already listened to the likes of shows from 2/15, 2/19, 3/22, 3/24, 10/19, 10/21, 11/11, 11/14, 11/17, 11/30, 12/2, 12/18, 12/19… well… well…
But each to his/her own. My two cents on this one has been written. BTW, this show is only the second most overrated show of ’73 IMHO… the prize for #1 goes to 6/10!
Be kind, love thy neighbor, and listen to the Grateful DEAD!
p.s. All grievances aside, I must mention the HERE COMES SUNSHINE from this night. This version is one to behold, indeed! This one should be placed among the likes of 12/19, 11/30 & 11/17.